Monday, August 9, 2010

Giving the Gift of Connectivity

CHURCH CHALLENGE

Bauer Community Fellowship
Giving the Gift of Connectivity
By Sarah Westfall, Administrative Assistant/Copywriter
November/December 2008 Call to Prayer

Technology has become an essential tool for today’s church in the United States. If you tried, I almost guarantee you would struggle to find churches that do not have a website, never use PowerPoint or a projector, or do not at least have microphones or sound equipment. While many churches use these technologies during Sunday services or as a jump-start to their Christmas cantatas, Bauer Community Fellowship in Hudsonville, Michigan, decided to take it one step further.

About a year ago, BCF began to tackle how they might become better partners with the missionaries they support. Sure, the church sent money every year and had missionaries speak when they were in the States. But BCF wondered whether they were really connecting with their missionaries. As members of the Body of Christ, should their partnership in missions go deeper? The answer was yes—but how?

BCF’s lead visual tech, Bob Young, along with the missions committee decided to equip their missionaries with a webcam, a small camera used to transmit video over the Internet. A webcam allows people to hold a live video chat, connecting people in a way that far surpasses e-mail or a phone conversation because you not only hear the person’s voice but you also see his face and emotions.

Using webcams, BCF now spends five to ten minutes one Sunday morning a month having a live discussion with one of its missionary families to learn more about the family’s life and ministry. The webcam video feed is projected on a screen so the congregation can see and hear the missionaries; additionally, the missionaries are able to see the congregation on their end through a second webcam placed in the church sanctuary. This sanctuary webcam allows the missionaries to see what is happening in the church during the interview, and they can also remain connected after the interview and be a part of the worship service.

Bauer Community Fellowship has been able to give the gift of connectivity to its missionaries as well as its congregation. How can our churches better utilize technology we already have to connect with our missionaries? What can we provide in addition to financial and prayer support that will fuel a deeper commitment not only to the missionary but also to the cause of missions?

In a way that makes sense for your church, consider the following suggestions for using technology to enhance your missionary interface and to give the gift of connectivity:

Dedicate a page on your church’s website to your missionaries. Include missionary pictures, links to their websites or blogs, contact information, and updates or prayer needs.

Stream your worship services on the Web and invite your missionaries to participate. In addition to using webcams to interview missionaries, your church can use this same technology at a very minimal cost to have your worship services streamed live from your church’s website.

Record a two- to three-minute phone call interview with a missionary and play this missionary update over your sound system during your Sunday morning service. Consider projecting a picture of the missionary while the audio is playing to connect a face with a name and personal story. Ready to take the next step? Post the recorded interview to your website as a downloadable MP3 file.

Give your missionaries digital cameras and ask them to share their recent photos with your congregation from time to time. Be sure to also send the missionaries photos of church events and members of your congregation.

Make missionaries your Facebook friends! If your missionaries and members of your congregation are on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/) or another online community, encourage your congregation to add the missionaries as friends so they can stay in touch by posting photos, leaving comments, and sending messages.

Use PowerPoint or another visual medium to project missionaries’ pictures, prayer requests, current projects, or contact information before, at the beginning of, or after your weekly service. Getting the word out can be challenging, and a consistent, visual reminder is key to keeping people connected.

Send missionary care packages that include CDs or DVDs of a particular sermon or sermon series. If any of your missionaries is a pastor on the field, this gift may be particularly helpful in encouraging spiritual growth and in fostering continued connection to the church.
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